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The Story of Ki
The days in class began to slow down as the new days flew past me. The nights would run by as a flash of lighting, while the day would float at the same pace as the clouds. The assignments were still being done, and the stories for my projects still had a magnetic attachment to me.
The only difference now is that they do not have the same, comparable taste as my training nights now have.
I finish my work in a rush so that I had more time in the basement of Master Acas. I yearned for technique lessons, the body breaking exercises, the hope of understanding what Ki might be. The nights were dripping in sweat as I do countless push ups, relished with an excitement that drove my body like never before.
What a surprise to have turn out this way, a boy who developed a flavorful thirst for books and to shy away from any physical enjoyment, was now hungry for any fitness training, so long as it will draw me nearer and nearer to understand what I really was. The fire that burns on my hands became the fire that drove me as I kept torturing my body through every rigorous exercises again, and again, and again, and again.
I blame my agitation for making me get bored quickly after two weeks.
Day after day we trained like Navy Seals, doing runs and push ups every minute. I still had the hope for some explanation, hoping that he would explain Ki, and yet time after time again we would exercise, but he would still be silent. He would tell me how many sit ups to do, or he would tell me how many pull ups I would still need to make. He would pile more weights for me to pull, and shove more walls for me to push back against. Aside from all his commands, he would remain silent.
As the weeks slowly grew into a month, I became more bold to ask him directly what Ki was. Every response I get would be a new exercise to focus on. At every training I would ask about what I was, and who he was. Every night I would ask what Ki was. His answer would still be a list of push ups to do. Nothing else.
I walked over to my library one day, in the hopes to find something that my master would not tell me. Going through the rows of books, I pulled out as many books about martial arts as I could find. Books about Tai Chi, Karate, Wing Chun, Silat, Dambe, Tang Soo Do and many more had littered across the library desk. I drive through as much as I could read, dissecting discussions and analyzing the cryptid lessons that the so-called Masters had written. There were some that had outrageous ideas of what Ki was, while there were some that never discussed it at all. I couldn’t find any talk about Ki in Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Pale or Savate. Some Ninja books called Ki magic, which was very irritating to read through.
The most basic similarities that I could find were Tai Chi and Karate, describing Ki as energy. Ki was apparently the Japanese translation for energy, while in the Tai Chi terminology it was called Qi Gong. Their simple definition was energy, and in Tai Chi it said that Qi Gong simply means the use or manipulation of Qi.
I found chapters and chapters of Ki and Qi Gong deriving from Karate and Tai Chi, and luckily there were some small books completely devoted to Qi Gong. The chapters on Ki in the Karate books describe the energy manipulated through breathing exercise. It was the first basic lesson, and ultimately the final main goal for a Karate practitioner to harness Ki through their breathing, and channeling that energy in every move, ranging from small movements to explosive attacks.
In the Tai Chi and Qigong books, I read that this energy was interconnected throughout the entire body, a energy cardiovascular system that naturally distributes energy to all the organs in the body. The organs themselves can naturally create Qi. Through certain exercise, including breathing like Karate, a practitioner can agitate and take control of that energy in order to project it though attacks.
Along with the energies within, Ki can also be found in the Earth as well, and certain footwork exercises could also allow a person to take in energy from around them.
I began to focus more on Qigong and Karate, pouring into every chapter that they had about energy, breathing to control Ki and learning to harness Qi Gong. The concepts of Ki within the human body were so in-depth with detail that certain books even included medical chapters and human anatomy, combining practical medical knowledge along with the exercise devoted to fighting.
There was so much information, more than I had realized was included to Ki. The health it could give, the strength it provided, the longevity of intense training. All these stories of amazing feats with Ki, yet not one of them would mention a story about people on fire or teleporting in the same way that Master Acas can do. No stories of men that can punch like jack hammers and have lizard eyes. I could not find anything near to what I wanted to find about the Ki that I so desperately wanted to understand more about…..
A jab from the darkness plunged into my chest, like a strike from a spear point was aimed at the pockets of air building in my lungs. I nearly gagged when the air rushed out of me and as I doubled over for a chance to puke out, I saw a pair of intense eyes staring at me.
“If you want to study,” Master Acas said, “make sure you give it everything you got, and try your best not to drool over the books.”
I tried to gather my thoughts, and notice out the window that the sky had become pitch black. I look over at my books, and with shame I notice that most of the pages have been soaked by my drool. As I was trying to wipe up the drool, a thought hit me hard, right between the eyes.
“I missed practice, didn’t I” I said.
Master Acas didn’t move, but somehow the unmoved expression on his face seem to confirm that I had missed practice. All my curiosity of why he was in the library in the first place were quickly answered, swept away by more shame and embarrassment.
“Master, please forgive me,” I pleaded, “I’ve became too caught up with my studies lately.”
“Studies….” He muttered, “Very interesting. Would you mind telling me which class is teaching the application of Qigong? Seems like a class right up my ally of studies.”
He was flipping through the pages of my textbook, but he kept his gaze on me, watching my every movement, it seemed. I had a weird feeling of being under a extreme polygraph lie detector, as if his gaze was tearing through all my expression and all my words, trying to look for any truth in me; and I felt an uneasy fear that he might tear my arms off if I don’t tell the whole truth.
“I’m sorry Master, I’ve been really impatient, “ I sighed, “I became your disciple to learn about Ki, and yet every practice we have only exercise and occasionally spar, and I could have found the same things in a gym. That’s not why I decided to follow you. I need to know what Ki is, and what it has done to me.”
Master Acas gave his stare, again, and I sunk back into my chair as I prepared for the routine silence answer. Yet, to my surprise, he came to my side and pulled up a chair. As he sat down, he held out his hand and allowed it to shimmer. A shiver of excitement filled me as I watch the Ki circle through his fingers. I even braced myself for an initial shock that comes from the energy. However, the Ki stayed in his hand, remaining like a flickering fire on a candle stick.
“Ki is a part of us,” Master Acas said, “just like the bicep or abs muscles, it is in our bodies. What your books say about Ki is true, that it is an energy line that course through our body, but it is not a mythical energy. It is simply something that is difficult to train and control, because it is within you like blood. It takes even more training to pull it to the surface.”
He closed his fist and dissipated the shimmer, and look back at me.
“The first thing that you should know,” he said, “is that calling Ki to the surface of your body drains your stamina, probably even more then sprinting eight miles without stopping. You probably know what I am talking about, the feeling of being absolutely exhausted once the Ki has manifested outside of your body. ’
‘This is why I had you exercise first, trying to get you in better shape so that you could handle using Ki. Perhaps you would have done your workouts better if I had told you.”
For a moment I was in a daze, amazed that Master Acas had actually explain Ki, to have actually answer my questions.
“Wow,” I said, “.....did you also just apologize to me at the end?”
“Don’t expect too much of it kid,” he said.
“Sorry,” I said with a chuckle, “so if Ki is like blood, then how do you use it? Bringing it to the surface, as you called it.”
“Once you have the proper stamina,” Master continued, “the best way to describe the method, is by “flexing” the Ki to the surface of your body. In a way, this is why it is so training on a person's stamina, because you are keeping your Ki in place, moving it to a spot that you want it to amplify. “
“Flexing,” I repeated. The explanation sounded too simple, and yet when I recalled the past fight that I had, it began to slowly made some sense. The feeling of holding the shimmer in my arms, the exhaustion that followed after using the Ki, it all seem to make what Master Acas said become more clear.
“Ah, Master,” I said, “I do recall how Ki felt exhausting, but you still did not answer how you pull the Ki from the inside and bring it out.”
“Well,” Master Acas continued, “you need to remember that Ki is circulating through your body, that it is a part of you, and so many Ki training would say that it is a tool that you can access at any time. It requires certain mental training to locate your Ki within you and “flex” it to your need.’
‘But the mental training of locating Ki is a difficult process, although in any martial art, the ability to have masterful control over your body can take one’s entire devoted life. The Tai Chi masters take years to master controlling the power of their abdomen and bellies to be utilize in combat, and in the same way it takes years for Karate and Taekwondo practitioners to control their reflexes and make their bodies listen to the command of their mind. ‘
‘But once we enter into the meditation training, to locate and control your Ki, then there will be amazing possibilities for you.”
“I can’t believe how simple it all sounds,” I said, “So… is the meditative training next then?”
Master Acas had a look of such intense thinking that it almost appeared that he had a million ideas and options battling each other at the same time, until I realize that I was able to read his expression at all when before his composure was so stoic and impossible to read. I had a moment of proud, thinking that I can finally read his expression, but another thought came up that he was possible considering not training me yet, that I was not ready yet; After all, the last time that he took this long to make a decision, it was to tell me he wasn’t going to train me.
As I consider how I might have screwed up my chance to train more, he turned back to me with a content smile. I let out a breath, not realizing that I was holding it, and calmed myself before getting excited for his response.
“Alright,” He said, “some meditation training. Let’s see if you can call upon your Ki now.”
Normally when you think of meditation, you would have calm images show up in your mind, such as sitting down with your eyes close or yoga. Meditation is all about utilizing your mind to its best capacity, and usually you would think that a calm and relax state of being would help your mind reach this level.
A sparring match was not one of those methods of meditation that I would have thought of. I never even knew that it was an option.
We were back in the basement, the same place of drills and exercises, only this time he had me facing his fist rather than the normal push ups routine. As soon as we arrived from the library, Master Acas instantly began a sparring match with me. I had no style to call upon, and ne technique to help me through this round. All I could do was dodge and escape, and I was not doing very well in either.
Punches were coming at me from every angle, every direction, and I had to try my best to focus on finding my Ki during the barrages. Master Acas had a fight pattern that I had never seen before, sometimes appearing from every direction at the same time, such as five punches from the left and three from the bottom in a matter of a few seconds. I tried to back up as much as I could to get away from the punches, but Master Acas quickly caught up with me and smacked hard to the ground with a high palm strike.
“Never retreat during a barrage of attacks”, he said, “Forward is always quicker than backwards, and you will get overtaken by your opponent if you keep retreating.’
‘Always strike forward, no matter what moves your opponent throws.”
“I get,” I panted, “I get it….I’ll try.”
“There is no trying in a fight,” he replied, “there is only the action that would bring a decisive outcome, whether it is defensive or offensive.”
“Can I ask a quick question?” I said.
As soon as I stood back up, Master Acas rushed in with a uppercut. I moved back again to my left in order to avoid the punch, and I connected with a right hook punch that got to my escape before me.
“You may ask a question,” he said.
“I thought we were going to find my Ki through meditation techniques,” I replied.
He walked over to me, and drove a front kick to my gut. I blocked the kick with both of my hands, but I was still sent flying far back.
“Meditation is all about using your mind,” he said, “and it can be done in many ways. Some Martial Artist like Chen Tuan and Naruto can gain Ki through deep thought and less movement.”
He rushed back to me and lifted me up with his knee, and knocked me back down with a high punch.
…..Did he say Naruto?
“Whereas some Martial Artist such as Goku, Wukong, Bruce Lee and Wang Lang can gain the fundamental benefits of meditation through a fight,” he continued, “and since you used your Ki during self-defense, I have a pretty educated guess that you will meditate better in a fight.”
…...He just said Goku. I had to stop the fight now, because there was no way I can concentrate after hearing those names. I try to lift up my hands to stop the match.
“Wait a moment!” I shouted, “wait a moment!”
The punch stopped centimeters, but it had mercifully stopped none the less.
“Why should I stop during a fight,” Master Acas said, “have you ever heard of any enemy that stops when he is asked to?”
“Just…. I need a sec,” I said, trying to catch my breath at the same time, “I was caught off guard by the names you had mention. Did you really say Naruto and Goku?”
“Did I stutter?” he replied, “Yes, I did say Naruto and Goku.”
“And Wukong,” I continued, “You said Wukong, as in Sun Wukong the Monkey King.”
“Is this really going to be your question?,” he said, “That’s right, I said the Monkey King. Now, I’m going to punch you with Ki for asking such a dumb question.”
“Just wait,” I begged….hoping that he did not realize that I was begging now, “the names that you mention are not real. Just fairy tales and manga characters. They aren’t real, right?”
Master Acas step back for a moment and took some time to breathe, while grabbing a chair to sit down.
“Alright, you get to have a break,” he said, “this is going to be a pretty lengthy story.”
I dropped my hands into my lap with relief, all the while trying to figure out the right question to ask. The names that he had mention were so ridiculous, and yet the thought of them being real brought up inside me a childish glee of anticipation and hope that everyone had when they were younger kids.
“Those names that I had mention,” Master Acs began, “are real people. The mangas and legends about them may not be true in detail, but they do exist and possesses the same abilities and techniques that you see in those stories.”
“All of them are real!?!”, I couldn’t stammering over such an amazing realization.
“I already know what you are thinking,” Master Acas continued, “when a Martial Artist is able to master their Ki, the possibilities are endless, and to the public it would appear that we have super powers. In fact, anyone that you have heard of in myths and stories are accounts of the public witnessing someone using Ki.”
“You really mean all of them?” I kept asking, “people like Superman, King Arthur, Maui and Ichigo Kurosaki are real people?’
‘So abilities such as flying, cloning and lasers are real abilities with Ki?!?”
“Yes,” Master Acas said, “they are possibly with Ki. Anything that you can envision, no matter how impossible it may be, can be achieved through the vigorus training and dedication to the ways of Martial Arts.’
‘No one is sure who was the first Martial Artist that was able to achieve all the powers of Ki. Many masters believe that the first would have to coincide with the first myth ever told, so possibly the first Ki master was a Mesopotamian or an Egyptian, where there were stories of heroes such as Horus and Gilgamesh. Regardless, the more man trained in the ways of Ki, the more techniques and abilities beyond our imagination were conceived to the point where there was practically no limit to what a Martial Artist could do. Healing, energy pushes, teleportation and many more were realized based on the practices and research of the art that a man can be committed to.’
‘But all power comes with their vices, as it is with any form of power. Pride, greed, anger, jealousy, rivalries and many more devilish reasons began to plague the minds of many of the masters who had incredible powers of their Ki. Civil battles began, rival gangs and school ran competition that were out of control, and Wars that were inevitable ravage entire nations to the point of unrecognizable devastation.’
‘These battles over nothing that raged for millenniums had caused many masters to retreat from the public eyes, and the teaching of Ki became a guarded secret, for fear of teaching the wrong minds who would use such powers to only oppress others with their unguided powers.”
The story that he had told seem so fascinating, and my first instinct was to believe that he made it up. But I knew that everything that he was saying was true. I had seen all the amazing abilities that he possessed, not to mention what I could be capable of; and was it really too radical to believe that the people that attacked me were also Ki users that had let their natural human nature cloud their inhibition? All man is subject to the temptation and corruption that power can give, as we have seen with political figures and cult leaders.
It was not a ridiculous tale, but a wonderful reality.
“That would mean…” I stuttered, “that...that would mean….”
“What!” Master Acas said.
“All those heroes that we thought were just fairy tales,” I began to ramble, “they were all true. Heroes are not made up stories to give moral lessons or hope, they were accounts of real people trying to help. Real people that had accomplish amazing feats of power for the greater good of man!”
“Now you sound really nerdy,” he replied.
“Are they still around?,” I ask, “Are there other Martial Artist like Goku and Musashi around?”
Master Acas had a stern look when I said that, I turn away. He got off his chair and began to walk off slowly, as if I wasn’t there anymore.
“Master!”, I called, “Master, are there anyone around like us?”
He took a while but he did stop, yet there was a meekness and despair that I had not seen before in my master, an air of regret that seemed to sap out the energy in the atmosphere. Master Acas turned back to me, with a look of distress and pain that seem to answer my question.
I did not forget what he said when he placed the oath of discipleship on me, mention the terror and dread that this war will show me the longer I survive in it. I had thought he said those things simply to scare me from my training, and yet in those sad expression I realize quickly how true the horrors of war can really be.
“Vices can attack anyone,” he finally said, “no matter if you are a disciple or a master, the can attack from within or from others. I have spent years of training and fighting with those that I could call comrades, and each one had either turned to malice or were killed by the very ones corrupted by temptations. So far as I am convince, that is the only end to this war, whether to fail and join those corrupted by power…..or die.”
I stood back up and walk up to my master, a strange renewal of purpose welling up inside of me, every since he explain what a Martial Artist can be.
“But you have not been tempted,” I said, “and you are still alive, and I promise that I will not give in to corruption as well. We will fight them, drive them away, and be what all men want to be.”
He look at me with a disagreeable sneer, but slowly it melted into a small smile, the same smile the night that we first fought.
“Are you saying that you will become a Hero?”, he asked.
“Yes,” I said, “I will be everything that I have read about, what I have written about, and what I have always dreamed to become. I will be a Hero.”
At the instant that I said that, a red light began to flicker at the corner of the basement. Soon after, a sound of static flared to life with what sounded like a call from the police.
“No way,” I said, “you have a police scanner?”
“Something like that,” Master Acas said, “I’m not very good with tech, but I have rigged up a line that keeps track of any mention of certain crimes that are ‘out of the ordinary’.”
He walked over to the scanner to adjust the clarity of the call until a clear voice was restored and audible enough to be understood.
“....corner of Federal and Cobalt street, we have a theft attempting to flee from the scene….”
“Well, that sounds pretty ordinary,” I said.
“It appears so,” Master Acas replied.
“.....Correction, suspect is found on 8th Avenue….”
“Wait, that’s 12 blocks away from Cobalt street.” I said.
“Suspect seen on Park Avenue…..wait, what? I thought the suspect was on 8th Ave….!!!!!”
A sound of a car explosion came out of the scanner, followed by the unintelligible wailing of multiple voices giving commands, some begging for answers, yet despite the chaos muddling around in their talk, they were all asking the same thing.
They were asking for someone to help them.
Master Acas turned the scanner and looked at me, and my hands chilled at the anticipation of what he was about to ask.
“Well Anjyl,” he said, “how about we practice being a Hero for a while for your training.”
At those words, my excitement broke out of me like a flood gate. I couldn’t ever gather words into a sentence.
All I could do was smile.